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Category: Home Maintenance & Safety Tips
Hawley Home Inspections, LLC offers information about home maintenance and safety tips for your security and protection
Hawley Home Inspections, LLC is a certified home inspector that offers a variety of home inspection services to the St. Louis region. Additionally, they offer maintenance and safety tips to help ensure home maintenance and safety tips.
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A $20 Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI – GFI) could save your life. Don’t
put it off any longer.
One of the most often listed defects found by home inspectors, building code officers and city occupancy officials is the lack off ground fault circuit interrupters or GFCI -GFI outlets and or breakers.
Where should you install GFCI outlets?
GFCI protection is required for receptacles by the the 2017 National Electrical Code (NEC). On all kitchen counter tops, in all bathrooms, laundry rooms, crawl spaces and unfinished areas of basements. Also included are garages, hot tubs, swimming pools, sump pumps and sewage ejectors. Outside the home they are required for outside receptacles, boat docks and out buildings. These are just a few of the areas that require GFCI protection.
Owners of older homes can retrofit GFCI receptacles or install GFCI breakers. The receptacles are about $20 retail and protect all outlets down stream. GFCI Breakers are about $50 retail and will give protection to an entire circuit. Portable adapters are available as well as protected extension cords from $20 to $50.
Installing A GFCI could save your life
GFCI protection could prevent as many as two hundred deaths by electrocution every year. As well as countless unnecessary burns and fires. The GFCI was invented in 1961 and incorporated in the NEC starting in 1971.
1971 Swimming pool and exterior receptacles
1975 Bathroom receptacles
1978 Garage receptacles
1981 Spas and Hot Tubs
1987 Kitchens, Hydro Tubs, Unfinished Basements and Boat houses
1990 Crawl Spaces*
1993 With in 6 feet of all Bathroom Sinks, Tubs and Showers
2005 With in 6 feet of Laundry and Utility Sinks
2014 GFCI and AFCI protection required for Kitchen and Laundry areas
2017 Garage Door Operators*
2017 Decks Balconies and Porches
*GFCI must be readily accessible: if you have to move objects or use a ladder to reach the GFCI it is not considered to be readily accessible. GFI breakers are suggested in these cases,
GFI protection is required around areas that may become wet
GFCI protection is required for receptacles in wet areas or areas that may be expected to become wet. Prior to 2017 the NEC required GFI protection with in 6 feet of sinks this was changed in 2017 as show above. Unfortunately a very small current flow can kill a person who is in contact with a grounding source. Such as a kitchen sink, damp concrete or wet grass.
GFCI’s Trip at a 5 milliamp current leak
A GFI receptacle or breaker checks for a difference in the flow of electricity between the hot and neutral wires 30 to 40 times a second. They will trip (disconnect) the circuit breaker or fuse if a difference of 5 milli amps (.005) is detected. GFI’s trip at 5 milli amps, at 10 milli amps you will feel the shock. At 25 milli amps you will not be able to let go. Between 50 and 75 milli amps you may be electrocuted. Therefore because some GFI receptacles or breakers can fail in the energized position it is recommended to test GFCI devices monthly.
Purpose of ground wires
The third wire in a modern residential circuit is the ground wire, The ground wires purpose is to trip the breaker or fuse if a hot wire comes into contact with the metal housing of appliances or tools. Grounding has been required since the mid 1960’s to prevent over heating of wiring. Grounding only works in the case of a direct short circuit that carries enough current to trip the breaker or fuse. In other words GFI protection on the other hand is designed to protect humans from electrical shock by disconnecting at very low current flows.
Older Home Should Be Updated
In conclusion circuits installed in homes before the mid 1960’s probably do not have the protection of a grounding circuit. The NEC allows the use of GFI protection on these circuits so three prong receptacles can be installed safely. GFI protection on an older two wire circuit only protects humans from electrical shock. It does not provide grounding. Some appliances such as TV’s, computers, washing machines and dryers use the third wire to dissipate static electricity. You should discuss adding grounded circuits for these items with your electrician.
Electrical work should only be done by qualified electricians.
To learn more about Hawley Home Inspections’ skilled team of professional home inspectors, call or email us today at:
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Furnace and Air Conditioner Issues we find During the Home Inspection
AC and Furnace Issues Are All Too Common
One of the key systems our inspectors check during the home inspection is the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system, or HVAC. In the Midwest, most homes are equipped with a forced air heating system fueled by natural gas, propane, or electricity. Though not as common, radiant heating systems, geo-thermal systems, and wood furnaces are also found in this area. The majority of homes in Missouri and Illinois also have central air conditioning.
The home inspection will include a detailed examination of this equipment. The inspector will look at both the installation of the system components and any notable wear. The inspector will use a variety of tools, like digital thermometers and infrared cameras to examine the system, then note simple maintenance items and any potentially serious issues uncovered.
We’ve compiled a list of the most common problems home inspectors encounter when checking the HVAC system in an effort to help you know what to look for before you buy or sell a home.
Here are eight common issues we find in homes with forced air heating systems and central air conditioners:
Dirty Air Filters. It’s one of the simplest and least expensive home maintenance issues to correct, and it’s often the most neglected. A clogged or dirty air filter can seriously hamper the ability of your furnace or air conditioner to heat or cool your home. If the air can’t flow freely through the HVAC system, conditioned air doesn’t circulate into your home efficiently. This can cause the furnace to short cycle. The result may have chilly homeowners turning up the heat in an attempt to keep their homes comfortable in winter or keep the air conditioner unit running non-stop in summer. This puts unnecessary strain on the furnace and AC units and can really skyrocket utility bills. The lifespan of a furnace filter varies depending on filter type and the indoor air quality. Since the filter captures dust particles, pet dander, smoke, pollen, and other indoor air pollutants, factors like having pets and smoking indoors can shorten the filter’s service life. Most disposable filter manufacturers recommend changing them after one to three months.
Duct Work Issues: The ducts are the conduits that channel the conditioned air from your furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner into the rooms of your home. If the duct or register it leads to is installed improperly or becomes damaged, it can seriously impact your HVAC system’s efficiency. Cracked duct work and broken connections can leak heated or cooled air into the spaces inside your walls, or into unused attics and crawl spaces, making it harder for your system to deliver the right comfort level to interior rooms. And when your furnace or air conditioner has to work harder to keep your rooms comfortable, it costs you more. Ductwork leaks can also create moisture issues in your basement or crawlspace. According to educators at the University of Minnesota Extension, excess moisture can lead to all sorts of air quality issues—everything from growing mold to exploding the dust mite population inside your home. Making sure your conditioned air goes only where you want it to go can make a big difference.
Ventilation Issues. All furnaces that burn
fossil fuels to operate must have adequate ventilation. This is true for forced air systems and radiant heating systems with boilers; if it uses natural gas, propane, heating oil, or solid fuel to operate, the exhaust must be vented outside. That’s because combustion exhaust contains noxious compounds like carbon monoxide (CO), which are hazardous to breath. Vent pipes take this exhaust to the flue or chimney which vents the gasses outside and away from your living space. This vent pipe and flue need to be properly supported, slope upward toward the outdoor vent or chimney, and free of cracks or holes, so exhaust can’t escape indoors. It should also be kept away from any flammable materials.
Heat Exchanger Problems. The heat exchanger is a coil of metal tubing that carries hot combustion fumes to the exhaust system while allowing the heat from those gases to transfer into the duct system where they can be distributed throughout the home. This critically important device keeps the noxious furnace fumes out of your home. A crack in the heat exchanger can cause those gasses, including carbon monoxide, to escape into the air you breathe. This is a potentially life-threatening issue, and an expensive repair.
Dirty or Clogged Condenser Coils. This is of the most common issues causing air conditioners to struggle to cool the home and one of the easiest to fix. Dirty coils Restrict air flow to the outdoor condenser unit leading to poor heat transfer. That means the air conditioner must work harder (and consume more energy) to cool the home. The simplest solution is to keep plants, solid fencing, dog houses, and all other objects at least one foot away from the unit. The surface should be cleaned occasionally with a vacuum or brush.
Uneven Condenser Unit Pad or Brackets. Whether the outdoor air conditioning condenser unit sits on a concrete pad or is mounted to the home with brackets, it needs to be level (within 10 degrees). That’s because the condenser unit relies on lubrication in the tubing to function properly. If it’s sitting too crooked, the lubrication becomes less effective and the refrigerant (coolant) lines are subjected to additional stress. This is one of the fastest ways to wear out your AC condenser prematurely.
Missing Insulation. Your air conditioner has two pipes that carry the refrigerant between the evaporator (inside) and condenser coils (outside). The larger line carries the cooled gas and should be insulated. This keeps the line cool longer, improving efficiency. It also helps keeps the line from sweating indoors which could cause significant water damage and invite mold growth.
Clogged or Damaged Drain Hose. The indoor portion of an air conditioner uses a drain hose to remove the condensation (moisture) that collects during the cooling process. If the drain hose becomes clogged the water can’t escape and will eventually spill out onto the floor. If the hose is damaged, moisture can leak and pool wherever the damage is, even inside a wall or ceiling. Unchecked moisture inside the home is never a healthy development, as it can lead to fungal growth and rot.
This list of potential issues is in no way exhaustive. That’s why it pays to have a professional home inspector evaluate the HVAC system in the home you are buying or selling.
Make sure your home inspector is a certified professional with the skills you need. All our home inspectors are Certified Master Inspectors. That means they have the training and expertise you need to make sure your home inspection is done right. To learn more about Hawley Home Inspections’ skilled team of professional home inspectors, call or email us today at:
For more useful home maintenance tips and information visit us at:
Why have a home security system. The dogdays of summer are here.
Did you know this is also the time of year when most residential burglaries occur?
According to the FBI, there were more than 1.2 million burglaries in the U.S. in 2018 (the last year for which we have complete data). That a burglary every 25 seconds. July and August are the busiest months for burglars. Statistics show that more than 95 percent of burglaries involve break-in by force, such as by breaking a window or door lock and 59 percent of home burglaries occur during the day while residents are at work or at school. Homes with a lot of cover, like large bushes, trees, fences, and gardens, are more likely to be broken into.
Victims of burglaries suffered an estimated $3.4 billion in property losses in 2018—about $2,700 in property losses per burglary.
And those are just the thieves who get inside. Porch pirates steal about 1.7 million delivered packages every day according to a study by the New York Times. One in three Americans report having at least one package stolen from their front porch or stoop. And nicer neighborhoods see a higher number of these thefts than lower income neighborhoods do according to Nathan Richter, Senior Partner of Wakefield Research.
The U.S. Postal Service reports postal inspectors arrested almost 2,500 suspected package thieves in 2018. But those thefts add up to more than $25 million in stolen items every day—more than $9.1 billion a year, according to C+R Research. Nicer neighborhoods see a higher number of porch pirates than lower income neighborhoods do according to Nathan Richter, Senior Partner of Wakefield Research.
In many cases, a security system could prevent homes from becoming a part of these statistics. The National Council for Home Safety and Security says that homes without alarms are three times as likely to get burglarized. It’s also important to point out that residential burglaries have declined nearly 40% since 2014 according to the FBI, while the number of residential security systems rose.
Security company window stickers and yard signs can deter crime. A comprehensive five-year study by researchers at the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice found that residential burglar alarm systems decrease crime. According to the study, the presence of a home security system deters burglars from breaking into that home and acted as a deterrent for neighbors’ homes too. And a neighborhood or community with several homes that have security systems installed deterred burglars from the entire area.
The jury is still out as to whether Doorbell cameras stop thieves, but police say they can play a role in solving crimes. St. Louis County Police officer Tracy Panus told KMOV-TV these videos do help. “I think they are a fantastic investigative tool”, she said. Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp told Government Technology Magazine that doorbell camera videos have helped police investigating crimes including residential burglaries, package thefts, auto break-ins and vandalism.
According to data insights firm Strategy Analytics, global spending on doorbell cameras is expected to triple from $500 million in 2019 to $1.4 billion by 2023. These tiny electronic watchdogs monitor who come and goes. They offer video streaming and let you use your smart phone to chat with visitors, keep an eye on kids coming home from school, and watch for package deliveries. They can be tied to door locks and motion detectors and can be part of a professionally monitored home security system.
Nathan Stroup of Secure 24 specializes in working with new home buyers. Stroup says security systems today are highly customizable and come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges. Consumers have access to multiple DIY options as well as fully monitored and automated systems that can integrate with all a home’s other systems like heat and lighting. Stroup says it’s important to do a little homework to get the features that fit your needs and your budget, especially if you’re doing it yourself. “There’s just so much available today,” he said.
Working with a full-service security company can be very helpful according to Stroup. “There are dozens of features and hundreds of ways to configure a system,” Stroup said. “ADT clients can get everything from a basic system with motion detectors, door sensors, and doorbell cameras, to complex set ups with indoor and outdoor cameras, and smart home integration, and control it all using virtual assistants like Alexa,” he said.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, homeowners can see substantial savings on their insurance by installing anti-theft security systems. Monitored home security systems can lower a homeowner’s insurance premium by as much as 10-20 percent a year. Even adding a camera doorbell can cut a home insurance policy rate by five percent or more.
Pat Howard at Policy Genius says even with the savings, “you probably shouldn’t get a home security system if the end goal is to make your homeowners insurance cheaper,.” You just don’t save enough to fully cover the costs. “However,” he said, “you should get a home security system if your goal is to make your home a safer place and prevent future theft claims down the road.”
Secure 24 ADT Rep Nathan Stroup talks about evaluating a home’s security needs:
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Buying a home is be the biggest purchase most people will make in their lifetimes. So, it’s important to invest the process. The home inspection is a critical part of the home buying process. It provides buyers with an impartial, professional, visual assessment of the home they are about to purchase. This gives buyers and their agents a valuable tool for negotiation, so it needs to give them as much information as possible. Enter infrared thermography.
As with most other industries, scientific advancements and new technologies have broadened the scope of a thorough home inspection and improved the inspector’s ability to assess the condition of the home. The development of modern tools like accurate, short term radon testing devices and air quality pumps and cassettes has allowed home inspectors to provide radon testing and airborne mold testing and given buyers valuable insights into the health or health risks of a home. Likewise, thermal imaging or infrared (IR) cameras have given home inspectors a whole new way to evaluate the home that gives buyers and their agents information that was previously unavailable to them.
Thermal imaging or thermography is an advanced, non-invasive technology that uses infrared imaging to take pictures of temperature variances of surfaces. These non-contact tools give the inspector the ability to see things that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Infrared thermography can’t actually see behind walls, but it can detect temperature differences on the surface of walls, often revealing what’s hidden. This technology can help the inspector identify and document issues that may not be apparent in a visual inspection. Using an infrared camera can reveal moisture intrusion, heat and energy loss, unexpected hot spots, and more.
IR cameras can detect moisture intrusion. They can find otherwise hidden plumbing leaks. They can help inspectors locate missing, damaged, or wet insulation. They can reveal unseen leaks before the damage gets serious. According to the US Department of Energy, “because wet insulation conducts heat faster than dry insulation, thermographic scans of roofs can often detect roof leaks.” Thermal imaging can also expose water and moisture intrusion at the foundation, subfloor, and around exterior doors and windows that could lead to structural damage and mold.
Thermography is excellent for determining issues of heat loss and air infiltration. These can be revealed in walls, ceilings, floors, windows, and doors. This technology can help an inspector find damage in radiant heating systems and determine if something is malfunctioning. Thermal imaging makes air conditioner compressor leaks visible. It can shine a light on structural defects that can lead to energy loss, like under-fastening or missing framing members. An infrared camera can detect broken seals in thermal windows.
Infrared imaging is excellent for finding hidden hot spots. These can be a sign of significant safety or fire hazards. Infrared cameras are effective at locating hotspots caused by circuit breaker defects, overloaded and undersized electric circuits, and overheated electrical equipment. Thermal imaging can find electrical faults before they cause a fire.
Thermal imaging can be used to help determine if appliances are working correctly. Properly operating appliances will exhibit surface temperature differences that can easily be picked up with an infrared camera.
Thermal camerascan’t see behind walls, but by using infrared technology, they can find a lot of problems that might not be obvious upon visual examination. Some of the other things IR cameras can reveal include serious hazards like exhaust flue leaks which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. They can spot heat signatures created by intruders like mice, rats, raccoons, and other pests hiding in the walls or ceilings of the home. They can even help the inspector see termite and ant infestations by revealing points of energy loss through shelter tubes leading outside.
Infrared inspections have their limits. Thermal imaging is not an X-ray or similar technology. An IR camera can’t see through walls. It can only detect conditions that produce a temperature difference at the surface of the evaluated area. The thermal imaging device can’t see behind any obstructions including furniture, pictures or anything that will obscure the surface of the area being evaluated. Specific condition must be present for infrared imaging to find wet building materials, but when those condition are met, the images are telling.
As with any type of inspection, thermography can’t predict future conditions. But it can give your inspector insight into conditions that could predictably worsen. Finding hidden moisture intrusion along the roof line using thermal imaging allows for repairs to be made before it causes serious structural problems.
Our inspectors are Certified Residential Thermographers. That means they are trained and tested professionals. Interpreting the data gathered using infrared thermography is perhaps the most critical aspect of a thermal imaging inspection. Infrared images must be interpreted by an expert who understands the limits of the technology and issues that can cause errors in measurements like dry areas and reflected heat. Professionals understand the limits of surface readings. A qualified interpretation lets buyers know what the findings mean. Is the issue found is of immediate concern, like an overloading circuit breaker, or a home improvement item, like adding insulation to an exterior wall? The distinction is critical. Our certified inspectors have the skills and know-how to accurately interpret infrared images and explain their findings in clear language that puts the issues found in proper perspective.
We expect thermal imaging to rapidly become one of the more indispensable implements in our home inspection toolkit. The IR camera equipment is expensive enough that not every inspector offers this type of inspection. Those who do often charge a hefty ancillary fee. Not us.
At Hawley Home Inspections, we feel the information gathered using infrared imaging is too important to leave out of a complete home inspection, so just like our free WDI/termite inspection, we are making it part of the standard home inspection process. And issues found with IR equipment during the home inspection are included in the free follow-up inspection. This is the only sure way to determine whether the repair work performed has effectively addressed the issues that our thermal imaging inspection uncovered.
Our mission is to set the standard for the home inspection industry in the St. Louis region by providing our clients the most thorough, highest quality professional inspections they can get and to do so at a fair price. Adding infrared thermography to our home inspections without charging extra is part of accomplishing that mission.
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(HawleyHomeInspectionsLLC.com) Radon Gas is an odorless, colorless gas that can build up in your home. It is a known carcinogen and the second leading cause of lung cancer (right behind smoking) according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC reports that Radon induced lung cancer kills about 21,000 people in the US each year—that’s about twice the number the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2018. It’s around six times the number of drowning deaths and eight times the number of people killed in home fires each year. Of those 21,000 lung cancer deaths, about 2,900 occur among people who have never smoked. It is the single leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
How do we know Radon is bad for us?
Scientists first discovered the harmful effects of Radon gas after occupational studies of miners showed those exposed to Radon gas over time had developed higher than normal rates of lung cancer. There was initially some debate about whether the data applied to Radon gas in the home. In 2005, that debate ended after two studies—one in North America and one in Europe—both confirmed the radon health risks predicted by the occupational studies. They found that breathing low levels of radon, like those found in some homes, leads to an increased risk for lung cancer.
Radon gas is radioactive. It is a natural byproduct of mineral breakdown that is all around us. The United States is a mineral rich nation. This is especially true in the Midwest. One of the minerals found in our soil is uranium. It is present in small amounts in many kinds of rock. Over time, uranium breaks down. When it does, it releases radioactive radon gas.
The radon gas moves up through the soil and water, eventually making its way into the atmosphere. That’s not a problem outdoors, where the gas can dissipate into the air, harming no one. The problems occur when radon gas builds up indoors.
There is generally some Radon present in all homes according to the EPA. Prolonged exposure to even moderate levels of radon is a health risk. The EPA strongly urges mitigation when a radon test indicates radon levels at or above 4.0 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). That’s because Radon is a known carcinogen or cancer-causing agent. The harmful effects of radon exposure happen over time. The stronger the concentration of Radon and the longer one is exposed to it, the higher the risk of developing lung cancer.
How can I find out if my home has a Radon problem?
Since Radon gas is odorless, you can’t smell it. It has no color or opacity, so you can’t see it. It has no flavor, so you can’t taste it. The only way to know if there is Radon building up in your home is to test for it. Testing is simple, inexpensive, and can be done as part of the home inspection when you buy your home, or at any time thereafter.
There are various types of radon tests. Some require leaving testing material in place for several months or more. Others can be completed in as little as a few days. Home testing kits are available at your local hardware store. These are inexpensive and fairly easy to use, but they lack tamper-resistance and protection from test interference, so can yield false results. Most real estate transactions rely on professional testing by certified technicians using sophisticated equipment.
What kind of test is used for real estate transactions?
The most popular Radon tests for real estate transactions are performed using machines called Continuous Radon Monitors (CRM). The CRMs are placed in the lowest livable level of the home (generally in the basement if there is one). One CRM must be place over each foundation type, because different foundation types allow differing amounts of Radon to seep inside. One machine can cover an area of up to 2,000 square feet. So, additional CRMs must be placed in larger homes. Readings are taken over a minimum of 48 hours.
Since Radon gas is radioactive, CRMs measure the amount of radioactivity in the atmosphere. The current standard of measure is picocuries per liter (pCi/L). A picocurie is a measure for the intensity of radioactivity contained in a sample of radioactive material. In a Radon test, it’s the air inside the home that is sampled and measured for radiation. The results indicate the average radiation level per liter of air over a 48-hour period. Once the testing time has elapsed, the data can be downloaded and read right away. This quick turn around makes this a very reliable way to get an accurate radon assessment of the home before the sale is complete.
Can any inspector test for Radon gas?
Radon testing using CRMs should be performed by trained radon technicians. Some states, like Illinois, require a licensed radon technician perform the test for real estate purposes. Licensed technicians must take a qualified radon measurement course and pass a state exam. In other states, like Missouri, state licensing isn’t required or offered. Both the primary professional organizations for home inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) offer certification classes and exams for Radon measurement technicians. So even in states that don’t license radon measurement technicians, a qualified radon inspector should have a certification that shows they are competent to conduct CRM radon tests.
Is it possible to cheat the Radon test?
People do occasionally try to cheat the test, but a professional Radon inspector knows the signs. CRMs have tamper warnings that alert the technician if someone tried to move or adjust the machine. Tampering will invalidate the test. Some will try to manipulate the room conditions to improve the test results. For instance, you can’t just open a window and let it out. That might clear some Radon from the room, but it’s a short-term fix at best and it can even elevate radon levels under the right circumstances. Since Radon seeps in through small gaps and cracks in the foundation, propping open windows and doors can create a stack effect, accelerating the process and sucking more radon gas into the home.
CRM tests require “closed house conditions,” meaning doors and windows can’t be left open during the test; window unit air conditioners that draw air in from outside must be turned off, along with attic and whole house fans. To circumvent would-be cheaters, the test throws out the first few hours of readings. And a trained Radon measurement technician can often spot attempts to circumvent the test by the way the readings change over the course of the test. If it looks suspicious, the inspector can declare the test invalid, and re-test the home.
How much Radon is too much?
According to the EPA a Radon level of 4.0 pCi/L in your home may be equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes a day. That’s what the EPA calls the Radon Action Level. At or above this level, the EPA recommends you take corrective measures to reduce your exposure to Radon gas.
Can you fix a home with a Radon problem?
An elevated Radon test result shouldn’t derail most home sales. Radon can be mitigated from most homes. If the results show elevated levels of radon, a professional can install a system to safely remove the radon in the home through a process called Radon mitigation or abatement. A Radon mitigation system will move the gasses from the soil beneath the home and vent them up into the atmosphere where they will safely disperse. Having a Radon mitigation system installed in most homes in the St. Louis area can cost several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. It’s a relatively small price to pay to keep your family safe in the home you love.
New homes can be built with Radon resistant features. Homes built in Illinois after 2014 are required to have a passive Radon mitigation system in place—that is, the vent pipes that allow the air to move up and away from the foundation must be built into the home. Missouri does not require passive mitigation system be built into new homes, but many builders do include them in their designs, and most will add them if you request it.
Sometimes a passive Radon mitigation system doesn’t remove enough Radon gas from the soil, and dangerous amounts still build up inside the home. A Radon mitigation professional can strategically place fans inside the system to effectively draw the gas up and away before it has time to seep into your home. These systems are referred to as active Radon mitigation systems. They are generally very effective at keeping Radon gas out of your living space.
Which homes should be tested?
The EPA recommends testing your home for Radon gas every two years. This is especially important if your home has a Radon mitigation system installed. But all homes should be tested periodically, since soil changes over time, and the gasses being released under your home two or three years from now may differ greatly from those released today.
Testing is also recommended after large construction and landscaping projects near your home, as these can disturb the soil enough to change the flow of Radon gas. Many realtors and lenders also advise their clients to have a radon test done with their home inspection. That way, there’s time to address the issue should Radon be a problem in the home. For more information, download the EPA’s guide to Radon for home buyers and sellers.
Remember, your home is where you and your family spend most of your time.
Just as it’s important to protect your investment with a professional home inspection, it’s important to protect your family with a Radon test performed by a licensed and certified Radon measurement technician.
If you are buying a home, Hawley Home Inspections can perform a Radon test alongside your home inspection. We also serve sellers who want to get ahead of any problems the properties they are selling may have, or to check if existing Radon mitigation systems are functioning properly. Even if you’re not planning a move, we can test your present home to make sure you don’t have a Radon problem. We also test small offices and businesses concerned about keeping their employees safe. Call for pricing.
Understanding the New Rules for Termite Inspection Standards for 2020
(HawleyHomeInspectionsLLC.com) Does it seem like Termite Inspections, also called wood destroying insect inspections (WDI), are yielding more recommendations for treatment these days? You are probably right. It’s not that there are more termite infestations. It’s more likely the result of the 2020 rules changes. What changes? Read on.
On January 1, 2020, a new standard for the termite inspection and wood destroying insect inspections took effect and the changes are significant. In July 2019, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) released an updated and revised NPMA-33 Wood Destroying Insect Inspection Form. That’s the standardized form that all pest inspectors use for real estate WDI inspections. According to NPMA, all previous editions are now obsolete. That means for real estate transactions, only the current form bearing a revision date of 7/1/2019 should be accepted.
There are a few revisions you need to know about. There are changes in language such as the replacement of the word “defects” with “wood destroying insect damage.” More significantly, the section on page one of the report noting evidence of previous treatment has been eliminated and the page two guidelines regarding when to recommend treatment for termites has changed.
Pest inspectors have always recommended treatment whenever live termites are observed. The new standard says “if no evidence of a previous treatment is documented and evidence of an infestation is found, even if no live termites are observed, treatment or corrective action by a licensed pest control company should be recommended.” The new guidelines call for documentation of treatment, not just evidence like drill holes.
In the past, if a termite inspector found shelter tubes or other evidence of infestation without observing live termites and also found evidence of prior treatment, they generally didn’t recommend treatment in their report. Under the new standards, unless there is documentation of prior treatment, termite inspectors are recommending the property be treated.
evidence of termite activity
Home sellers who have had their homes treated for termites in the past are advised to have the documentation of treatment at the ready. Be advised that the new guidelines also give the pest inspector latitude to recommend treatment if documentation is too old or in some other way inadequate.
Heavy rain and flooding can negatively impact a home’s termite protection system. The NPMA has published a technical update explaining what you need to know. Get it here
click here for a copy of the NMPA TECHNICAL UPDATE:
Roof Coverings: Balancing Aesthetics with Performance
(HawleyHomeInspectionsLLC.com) How is your roof? According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), during storms, your roof does a lot to protect your home. Besides keeping you and your family safe from rain, lightning, sleet, hail, and windblown debris, it keeps the inside of your home dry and can even act as a structural diaphragm in certain situations, keeping your home from falling down around you. In order to protect the home, your roof must resist both high and low temperature extremes, rain, high winds, exposure to ultraviolet radiation, snow, ice formation, and hail.
Of all the hazards your roof faces, wind is the most problematic according to FEMA. Living in the Midwest, you already know extreme weather with high winds or tornadoes can devastate a home. Even an average Midwestern thunderstorm can wreak havoc on a home’s roof. When wind force is greater than the roof system can handle, it can be disastrous. Wind can tear roof coverings from roof decks. It can separate roof decks from framing. And roof punctures from windblown debris can seriously impact the roof’s integrity.
Repeated exposure to wind events can wear down a roof’s first line of defense, the roof covering. Choosing the right roof covering for your home can make a big difference in how it weathers the storm. Homeowners have a lot to consider when balancing style and budget with performance.
Three Popular Options for Flat Roofs
Built Up Roofing (BUR): Hot-mopped built-up roofing (BUR) is one of the oldest types of roof coverings for flat roofs. They’re installed using several layers of roofing felt impregnated with asphalt and hot mopped with a low-grade crude oil called bitumen.
Hot-applied coal tar pitch blends with the bitumen-soaked felt creating a fused roof membrane generally two to four layers thick. Finely crushed stone granules may be applied to the top layer of tar to give the roof additional protection from the elements. A BUR roof is relatively in expensive. If well maintained, it can last 20 to 30 years.
Torch Down Roofing: Sometimes called “torch on” roofing, it requires an open-flame propane torch for installation. Torch down roofing is the most common type of roofing used on flat or very slightly pitched roofs. It’s a two- or three-layer roofing product consisting of a tough membrane of bitumen modified with rubber or plastic and embedded in a thick layer of asphalt. Torch down roofing can tolerate changing temperatures well and expands and contracts without melting or cracking. It’s usually a little more expensive than BUR roofing, but it also tends to be more resistant to punctures and UV rays.
Membrane Roofing (Rubber Roofing): Single layer membrane roofing is the most popular for commercial buildings, but it’s being used in residential roofing too. EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber roofing is perhaps the most synthetic rubber is the most common single-ply membrane roof material in both residential and commercial use. It’s also one of the more durable option for homes with flat roofs. Installed as thin sheets and being made of rubber or polymer, they’re flexible, elastic, and can handle temperature changes better than built up roofs (BURs). It also costs a little more with a similar lifespan.
Several Popular Options for Pitched Roofs
Asphalt Shingles: Widely considered the best choice for most homes. They are relatively light, inexpensive, and easy to install. Sheets of roofing are layered to give the illusion of more expensive single shingles, like cedar or slate, that are installed one shingle at a time. This means the asphalt shingles take less time to install. An asphalt shingle roof typically has a lifespan of 12 to 30 years.
Metal Roofing: Metal roof covers are an Eco-friendly choice that’s highly recyclable and energy efficient. It’s also wind and fire resistant. The most common type of metal roof is the standing seam roof. It’s made up of aluminum or steel roofing panels with interlocking raised seams. Installation is generally faster than most other roof covering types. For those who want the longevity and fire resistance of metal, but don’t like the look of standing seam roofs, metal shingles fill the bill. These steel or aluminum shingles or shakes can mimic asphalt, wood, or slate shingles, or even clay tiles. Metal roofs can last 30-50 years or more, but typically cost four to five times as much as asphalt shingles.
Clay Tile: This is a traditional choice that offers an exceptional aesthetic appeal. They can be left as unglazed red clay tiles or glazed and fired to become ceramic roofing tiles. Clay tiles have been used to cover roofs for centuries. They’re particularly good at resisting salt and heat damage, making them a popular choice in desert and coastal areas. They are a rather expensive choice, costing as much as $30 per square foot. But since a properly maintained clay tile roof can last more than a century, they are a one-and-done solution.
Concrete Tile: If you love clay tile but just can’t bring yourself to pay the price, concrete tile presents a similar looking, but less expensive option. Unlike clay, concrete tiles can be dyed to taste. Because it is molded, concrete tiles can be shaped to mimic rolled clay tiles or low-profile roofing like wood shakes. Concrete tile is a very heavy roofing material, making it a good choice in high-wind regions. It’s also fire resistant, last up to 50 years and is little as half the price of clay tiles.
Wood Shake and shingles: Wood shingles are precision sawed, thin slabs used to cover the roof. Wood shakes are hand-cut, making them thicker and more durable than machine-made wood shingles. Wood is a good insulator, and hand-cut shake shingles can last up to 40 years in a relatively dry climate with proper maintenance. But wood is not very fire resistant and moisture can shorten the lifespan of a wood roof considerably. They are one of the more expensive options, but also considered one of the most attractive roof covers on the market today.
Slate: Very popular for historic buildings, slate roofing is very long-lasting and durable. Slate shingles are thin sheets of real stone. This traditional choice combines beauty with enhanced protection, making it one of the most desired roof coverings available. It’s pricier than most other options, costing double or triple the price of even clay tiles. A slate roof represents a compromise between cost and near-permanence since slate roofs have been known to last centuries.
Synthetic Slate: Love the look of slate shingles, but not the price? Enter synthetic slate shingles, also called rubber slate. These engineered shingles look surprisingly similar to natural slate from the ground. Made from engineered polymers and recycled plastic and rubber, synthetic slate is a lightweight alternative that makes it an option for houses that can’t support natural slate’s the heavy weight. The rubber slate shingles are not as durable as slate but can last 50 years or more. They’re also priced closer to the cost of wood shake or metal shingles, making them much more affordable than real stone.
With all the roof covering choices available to homeowners, there really is something just right for everyone. Just as each type brings a unique style and benefit to the task, it also brings its own shortcomings and wear issues.
A Certified Roof Inspector is well versed in the positives and negatives of each roof covering type. They have the specialized training to properly gage the condition of the roof covering, spot installation issues, weather damage, and wear issues that could compromise your roof’s integrity. Since the roof covering is your roof’s first line of defense against the elements, it’s important that your home inspector has the expertise needed to properly inspect the roof. Protect your investment. Insist on a certified roof inspector.
(HawleyHomeInspectionsLLC.com) Have you neglected to clean your washing machine? It can seem counter-intuitive at first—this is the machine that CLEANS things, so shouldn’t it, by definition, be clean? Nope. Dirt and grime from all those dirty clothes don’t wash away entirely and eventually builds up in your machine, as well as hard water minerals and possibly mold and mildew. So, then you are essentially washing clothes in dirty water. Yuck!
The good news is there is a cheap and easy fix. All you need is some white vinegar, bleach and your washers hot water cycle. Exactly which way to approach the task depends on what type of machine you have.
Front Loading Washing Machines:
Run your machine on a hot cycle using about two cups of vinegar (add vinegar to the detergent dispenser or right in the tub). Vinegar is great for cleaning grime and soap scum.
Once the vinegar wash cycle is complete, do the same thing again using two cups of chlorine bleach and the hottest water setting. This time, when the wash cycle is done, run an extra rinse cycle to make sure all the bleach has been washed away.
Don’t forget to clean the rubber seal around the door! Wipe it down using a solution of ¼ cup bleach and about a quart of warm water.
Wipe it down using a clean cloth as thoroughly as possible, then dry it with an absorbent cloth.
Top Loading Washing Machines:
Run the bleach clean first using about a quart of bleach. Fill with hot water and bleach, then let it soak for an hour or so to kill all the mold, mildew, and germs. Again, run a complete wash on the hottest water setting you have. No need to double rinse. Next, fill the washer with hot water and about a quart of vinegar. Again, let it soak for an hour. Then run it again using the hottest water setting. Next Steps:
All machines will benefit from a simple wipe down with vinegar water. Be sure to get into the nooks and crannies, and don’t forget the inside of the door or lid! If you can remove the soap, bleach and fabric softener dispensers, soak them in a sink or pail of soapy water for a few minutes. Clean each piece with a rag or brush. Rinse and dry them and put them back.
Be sure to wipe down the outside of the machine with a damp cloth. Ta-da! Your washer is sparkling!
Check out these tips for how to clean your dryer vent from Ace Hardware.
(HawleyHomeInspectionsLLC.com) Millions of decks have been built in the US over the last 50 years or so. Many of the early decks were built with redwood or cedar lumber which have a natural resistance to rot and decay. Unfortunately redwood and cedar decks were very pricey and had an average life span of only 15 to 20 years. Depending on where you live and the care and maintenance of the deck some would last longer some less.
Transformation of treated lumber
In the 1970 penta treated lumber came into play because it had the advantage of a 40 year life expectancy. Some decks were built using the penta treated lumber as a decking surface however penta was not the most appealing product as it stayed oilie for a long time. The most common use for penta treated wood was the under framing with cedar as the decking and railing.
In the mid 1970s a new product called Chromated Copper Arsenate. CCA treated lumber burst on the market and soon replaced redwood and cedar as the go to product. The CCA treated lumber also had a 40 year life expectancy was 1/3 the cost of cedar and completely eliminated redwood in our market anyway. The pressure treated CCA yellow pine was readily available, cost effective, easy to use and had a pleasing appearance. CCA lumber allowed consumers to have large outdoor decks at reasonable prices and the deck boom has been going on ever since.
Unfortunately as the name implied CCA treated lumber contained arsenic as one of the main ingredients and has been discontinued for consumer use. The new product AC2 has similar properties to the CCA with out the risk to children and animals. The AC2 available from most retail out lets has lower lever of treatment for above ground use than materials for ground contact. For example the dimension lumber 2×4 etc will not be rated for ground contact and the 4×4 and larger lumber will be.
What to look for on your existing deck
Here are some of the basic points to check on the deck framing
The first thing to check on an existing deck is the support posts. The American Wood Council recommends decks more than four feet above ground have 6×6 or larger posts.
Second would be are the posts buried in the ground or do they set above grade on concrete with an approved base bracket?
Beams should set on top of the posts and may be held in place with approved brackets.
Rim boards attached to the house are usually secured with 1/2 inch lag bolts spaced 12 to 16 inches on center and off set so they are not on top of each other.
Deck flashing should extend up behind the siding and over the rim board to prevent water from entering behind the rim board.
Rim boards should not be attached to brick veneer or cantilevered floor systems.
Joist hanger should be used and sized correctly
Check for any rotten split or broken joists or deck boards
If you find any of the defects listed above we suggest you seek the council of a reliable deck contractor to determine what if anything should be done. Deck failures are usually do to neglected maintenance and not design. Your deck should have a good visual inspection at least once a year.
How maintain your deck
Plastic and composition decks require little more than soap and water clean up to keep them in good shape. Wood decks require a little more tender loving care.
Your wood deck should acclimate and dry out for a minimum of 6 months before any sealers or paint are applied. Sealers are available in clear, semi transparent and opaque in a multitude of colors. Remember once you add a color to the deck it will be hard if not impossible to change it so choose carefully.
Grounding and Bonding of electrical remote or sub panels in detached buildings
(HawleyHomeInspectionsLLC.com) Grounding and bonding is required with the exception of outbuildings containing only one 120 volt grounded branch circuit. Electric systems at detached buildings require bonding and a separate grounding electrode system (GES),which is commonly a grounding electrode (ground rod) in our area. See attachment for wiring illustration. One illustrates a 3 wire feeder and one illustrates a 4 wire feed.
When inspecting the service panel (main breaker/fuse box) you will need to determine that it is the first disconnect in the system downstream from the meter. There are two common exceptions.
The first would be in rural systems where the meter and a service panel / disconnect are located on a pole and not the house or shed and are more than ten feet apart.
Second the meter and inside breaker panel may be separated by a considerable distance (usually 10 feet or more) with a disconnect located directly below or close to the meter.
The second is most often found in duplexes and apartments but may also be the result of adding a garage or room addition and moving the meter but not the breaker box. In this case a disconnect is located near the meter. Make sure the service wires to the remote are in conduit.
Grounding and Bonding for Remote or Sub Panels
In both of the above cases what most people would refer to as the main breaker panel is actually a “remote panel” (please use remote not “sub panel”). If the wires feeding the remote panel are H H N G it is a 4 wire feed and neutrals must be isolated and grounds separated and bonded to the panel body.
If it is a three wire feed H H N no ground from the supplying panel (this includes metallic conduit) then it is a 3 wire system. A three wire remote panel is treated the same as a service panel with grounds and neutrals allowed on the neutral buss. (Otherwise there is no connection to ground).
In this case the neutral bus containing both neutrals and ground wires would be bonded to the panel body. We recommend upgrading a three wire system to a 4 wire system for safety.
To be clear ground rods do not provide ground fault clearance for the breakers. The earth ground will only allow about 4.8 amps to flow to ground at 120 v and this will only energize the ground wire but will not trip a breaker. The ground rod is to help dissipate electricity overloads from lightning strikes and power surges.
Grounding and Bonding Requirements
Grounding and bonding requirements are set by the National Electrical Code. However there are many different acceptable grounding options from metallic water pipes, driven ground rods, buried ground rings and using the rebar in a foundation. Each method must be approved by the local code officials due to the different soil types and moisture contents around the country.
Three wire feeds were allowed by the National Electrical Code until the 2008 edition. The NEC, as with all codes is constantly changing as new problems and solutions are reviewed. Many municipalities do not adopt the current code (new) for several reasons.
It is common practice for the authority having jurisdiction (AJH) to wait and see if the new changes to a code are revised, removed, modified or generally accepted by other jurisdictions. This may mean the local AHJ may be three to twelve years behind the current code cycle.
With a few exceptions code changes usually only apply to new construction and/or remodeling work that requires a permit.
We recommend reviewing any electrical issue with a qualified electrical contractor. Many issues are involved in upgrading an electrical system. Cost must be weighed against possible safety issues and the benefits to be gained.
Some changes are relatively inexpensive and can have a very large affect on safety and efficiency and others may require extensive demolition and reconstruction with little if any improvement in safety or efficiency.
The other issue to consider is whether the local code enforcement officials (AHJ) will require the upgrade. The National Electrical code is only a standard put out for everyone to use. The enforcement to the code is up to the city, township, county or state you live in.
Safety is always a top priority when dealing with electricity because it does not care were it goes or how it gets there. Nor does it care if it gets their by way of human contact. We will never be able to make electricity completely safe but upgrading to current code standards when possible will go a long way towards saving lives and property.